18 Apr 2018

Ellie Jay's waste free diary: ‘Is it easy to stop throwing stuff away?’

1:58 pm on 18 April 2018

Ellie Jay tries (and fails gloriously) to go waste free for a week.



Le bin bag heureuse

Le bin bag heureuse Photo: Unknown

The sea is full of plastic, dolphins are choking on it. There’s a garbage patch bigger than the South Island in the ocean. It feels like the world is drowning in rubbish. 

Is it easy to stop throwing stuff away? The #zerowaste accounts on instagram say yes, but seeing the tiny jars of rubbish that are the only things some people chuck out in a whole year makes me wonder, how do you even start? 

In the drive to be more eco-friendly, plastic is first on my long list of lifestyle changes, but do I even throw out that much stuff anyway? I guess I'll ifnd out. 

Welcome one and all to Ellie (that's me) Jay's waste free diary! 


I’m excited, I want to do everything, I’ve been to a ‘green living’ expo and tasted the vegan cheese, drunk the coconut kefir (eh? Me neither) and bought a bamboo toothbrush. 

I’ve never been excited for a period before and now I want to try this menstrual cup thing.* I’m filled with excitement about my new zero waste lifestyle and also don’t really know how to start doing anything – which bit comes first? Will it actually make any difference on the whole?  

I decide, for the first week, to collect everything that I throw away and let the new Ellie 2.0 emerge from the rubbish like a phoenix from the ashes.

*Full disclosure, I’ve had one of these for months, I’ve always chickened out of using it.


This week is also the week before pay day so all my lunches are going to have to be leftovers. One short room-tidying spree harvests a few paper bags, some huge deflated balloons from my boyfriend’s birthday in February and some bubble wrap from a reusable water bottle (seems slightly ironic.) 

I swing wildly between thinking I’ll be shocked at how much rubbish I chuck away and thinking, maybe I should chuck away more to make the experiment and subsequent phoenix/ashes moment more impressive??


I’ve realised the silent pressure of thinking about my rubbish all the time has made me stop before I do things. Also one healthy lady at the green expo said don’t drink coffee and have a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before meals. So far I’ve only managed one tablespoon before breakfast and I’m yet to feel the miraculous health giving effects. Sad.

I didn’t have a coffee today so no cup in the rubbish and a delicious green tea instead (This is a joke, green tea tastes disgusting.) My housemate made dinner as well so technically no rubbish from that, I did have to explain my bin bag on the back door tho’ which gathered many laughs. I have a reputation for not letting anyone bin anything compostable and for eating things way past their sell by date.


Alright, I had a coffee. I didn’t buy it from a shop though I just used the work machine so #zerowaste but extremely pathetic that I only managed two days without having one, oh dear, oh dear.

The old work coffee machine was better because it has a #covfefe sticker on it

The old work coffee machine was better because it has a #covfefe sticker on it Photo: Ellie Jay / The Wireless

This conversation with my friend occurred: “I’ve got a week till I try mooncup again too!! The lady at the fair said instead of boiling it you can just chuck it in a cup of water and microwave it for three minutes, which is good as I was a bit nervous about someone coming back whilst I’m boiling a mooncup**.”

**other brands are available

Me and her swap notes on various eco-friendly shit and mostly I update her monthly on how scared I still am to use it. I also realise I still struggle with the word menstrual, mens-strew-yel. Maybe that’s part of the problem? Maybe I should boil a hundred menstrual cups openly, shame free! 

I also ate lots of sweets today diary, but what can you have instead of sweets? I refuse to believe anyone who says you can eat fruit instead. I can’t even go three days without coffee – it’s unlikely I’ll manage any kind of no-sweets routine.


The bin bag is starting to get pleasingly/horrifyingly full, my flat all cook for each other and last night I was the chosen one. Had to buy some plastic wrapped cucumbers (there was no other option!) and jars from the curry sauce (too tired and cold to make my own, this isn’t masterchef.) Also I took my Tupperware-d curry leftovers to work wrapped in a plastic bag and it leaked EVERYWHERE. Having to wash out a plastic bag in a work sink to take home is both bleak and gross.

I chuck out an old, empty bottle of shampoo that’s been gathering mould in the shower tray for a few months and start to use shampoo and conditioner bars. So far so good, I was imagining it’d be like the time I stayed over at my friend Ali’s house and had to wash my hair with a bar of soap because that’s all guys use. But instead of looking like the rat king (google it but be warned) it’s actually silky smooth and rat-free, ‘10/10 two thumbs up, Five stars’ - Ellie Jay.

What happens to the stuff we chuck in the bin anyway? We have a compost bin which gets collected every month, what do they do with it? Maybe I should follow that line of investigation… How depressing would it be to find out it all just goes straight in the dump somewhere? 

I’m daydreaming about trailing the compost van, like inspector gadget (did you guys have inspector gadget as kids over here? Also I keep offering people flapjacks – why doesn’t anyone know what a flapjack is?)


It’s 9:30 and I’ve already bought a coffee and forgotten my reusable cup. Fuck. But this week is all about measuring, so I’m forgiving myself and having half a donut for breakfast, it’s Friday, I’m living my truth. Sustainably. 

As a side note, donut or doughnut? Both pass the spell check. 

The offending take-away coffee cup

The offending take-away coffee cup Photo: Ellie Jay / The Wireless

I didn’t think as well that this week would put me in touch with my unhealthiness. I’m planning to buy beers this evening and probably a lot of cheese, but the staring into the eyes of the bin bag is making me feel bad. 


There is something inherently a bit gross about carrying all your rubbish in your handbag. It’s got to the point where I forget to empty it at the end of the day, so I’ve just got 40 weird torn-open mini hokey pokey slab wrappers and fistfuls of receipts floating around in there. 

Today was a rush so actually all I ate was a ham sandwich and then some smoosh-balls I got given at the expo (technical name for them. I mean the rolled up oaty date-y things, I dunno, if anything they made me hungrier). I did think ‘oh the irony!’ of tasty, ‘healthy’ treats in small portions and plastic packaging.


This is it. The big day. The big reveal! I’ve just got to add a pie-bag (lamb, rosemary and kumara 8/10) and some more sweet wrappers (Just remembered this is like the flapjack thing, you guys call them lollies dontcha?)

Also wondering if I should have included loo rolls? All the cardboard inner tubes are piling up but I’m damned if I’m going to take responsibility for 8 loo rolls in a week- I reckon I’m maybe two at most. 


A week's rubbish.

A week's rubbish. Photo: Ellie Jay / The Wireless

Before I know it i’m tipping the bin bag out on the grass and raking through my week’s worth of waste.

Jokes aside I’m kind of disgusted. I have a reusable bag, a coffee cup, a compost bin. I don’t use bottled soap or shampoo (anymore) and I thought initially that I was pretty eco-friendly but the contents of the bin bag suggest otherwise. And that’s just one week, a good one at that. 52 bags of this shit a year?

In separating everything into recyclable and non-recyclable I found loads of little things - tea bags wrappers, plastic wrap, bread bags - that I’ve been putting in recycling when actually you can’t [though soft plastics like bread bags can be dropped off at certain locations for recycling.] The only stuff of all my rubbish that could go in was a few washed-out lentil cans and the remains of my booze stash. Also any coffee cup that claims to be compostable is apparently only compostable if it’s commercially done, which seems a bit ridiculous. 

It’s made me think loads about what I use and what I could change in my life. I’m naturally a ‘treat yourself’ and ‘oh it’s just this once!’ kind of person and this showed that I do that A LOT. So instead of being a one off, actually it’s more like my day-to-day.

It’s also made me want to be more active, start writing to politicians, and ask for more from companies and corporations. Something like 2 percent of takeaway coffees (in the UK) are sold in reusable cups - like Keep Cups - and there’s not much encouragement to use them from the corporate side. 

I know that plastic isn’t the only thing that’s wrong with the world, but I feel it’s one thing that’s quite easy to give up. Just have to find another way of buying lollies...